In recent years, I have noticed several repeated phrases, and one of these is criticizing a linear model for many ways of thinking. I heard this once again in Professor Stone’s lecture on ‘The unfinished business of the Darwinian revolution.’ I do not mean to sound like the asking of people to reconsider linear models is overstated and overused, but in fact, the opposite. Prior to each of these times I had not considered there could be a better and more accurate way of portraying a theory or an event, as I had simply accepted that that was the way it has always been portrayed, and Professor Stone’s argument was no exception. She forced us to analyze the universal image that represents evolution: the linear model of a crawling primate transforming to a walking man. What does this show? First, the acceptance of the theory of evolution and natural selection through the different changes from natural selection that evolved apes into humans. However, it also displays humans as the dominant species through the rising levels of each new transformation and through the idea that humans are the last form. It’s easier to critique the big theories and ways of thinking, and easier to neglect analyzing the smaller details and models that perpetuate an unfair and inaccurate portrayal. Not surprisingly, this ideology that man is best, or typology, is often perpetuated in society, as we have seen again and again in history.
The idea of characterizing a being based on physical traits reminded me of the many ‘theories’ that were socially accepted in the past that we now know was not based on any truths. There was the manuscript, ‘The Scale of Creatures’ by Sir William Petty that stated all living beings were created by God and were part of a hierarchical pyramid, with Caucasians at the top. This might sound ridiculous now, but we to some extent, this ideology is still very much present in modern society. Then there was the study of phrenology, in which it was believed the measurements of a human skull could denote that person’s intelligence and other characteristics. There was also physiognomy, the assessment of a person’s characteristics based on his outer appearances as a way of determining whether a person looked like a criminal or not. Once again, ridiculousness. Even though we now know that none of these theories are scientifically accurate and that the biological difference between people of different ‘races’ is smaller than the biological difference between people of the same race, societies are still judging people based on appearances. The ways in which we do this may be more subtle than in Petty’s day, but I would argue that this could be more dangerous, as the people who recognize discrimination as deplorable may not even be able to see the nuanced representations of inequality.